PARENTS say a child could get ‘seriously injured’ after safety and cycle barriers were removed from footpaths on a Bicester estate.

Cherwell District Council removed the metal frames in Southwold because they were considered ‘highly restrictive’ under the Bicester Sustainable Transport Strategy.

The policy has been adopted since 2017 in order to develop better transport routes such as cycle paths around the town.

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But parents are not happy as they think child safety was not considered enough before the barriers were removed, especially as no risk assessment was made.

The area of most concern is at a shared footpath and cycle path next to Tesco Express on Holm Way/Holm Square near Southwold School.

Oxford Mail:

Barriers were in place at the end of the path there to slow children down as they approached the main road, but they have now been removed in order to make it easier for cyclists to use the path.

One dad whose children go to Southwold School, but who asked not to be named, said: "I have seen a few near-misses where children run up to the road and cars are having to stop suddenly because the bushes surrounding the path are above child height.

"Only recently I saw children run to the road and an OAP nearly had a heart attack when she saw the children at the last second.

"There are other paths around the school where barriers are removed, and some little vertical wooden posts have been put in situ but do not do anything for child safety.

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"I am now waiting for there to be a road traffic collision where a child will be injured or worse."

The hedges next to the path in Holm Way have now been cut back by Cherwell District Council to allow both cyclists and pedestrians to see the road in advance before they cross.

Under the transport policy it says that 'barriers should not be provided at the beginning or end of off-carriageway facilities' and the council was following this in its removal.

Other areas where barriers have been removed on the estate that parents are concerned about include Spruce Drive, Willow Drive and Buckingham Road, which are all main routes leading from Southwold School.

With Bicester trying to become a ‘healthy town’ and with council initiatives encouraging people to cycle rather than drive, the metal frames are being removed to make the town more bike-friendly.

Community action group, Bicester Bicycle Users Group, wants people to ditch their cars and cycle 'more often and more safely'.

Oxford Mail:

It also finds barriers blocking 'active and accessible' travel around Bicester before pushing to have them removed.

Group founder George Bennett argues that the barriers were not just a problem for cyclists.

He said: "The pedestrian and cycle junction at Holm Square is problematic as there is poor visibility. The previous solution was not ideal because these barriers obstructed vulnerable users such as wheelchair users, parents with large prams, elderly cyclists, and trailer bikes.

"We need a solution that allows everybody to continue using the path while also making it safe.”

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The group suggests other ways to make the route safe for everyone such as a raised table across the road, improving the visibility for users and imposing a slow speed limit for cars.

It also suggests requiring vehicles to give way to pedestrians and cyclists such as on Lucerne Avenue by Bure Park Primary School.

But parents still feel barriers are the best way to be safe and want them to be put back.

A mum who asked not to be named said: "I walk this way every day to take my children to school and I am very appalled the barriers have been taken away. This is probably one of the busiest sections of road on Southwold due to being the school and Tesco's main entrance.

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“On many occasions I have seen lots of children fail to realise just how busy and how fast cars travel around here, if the barriers were there children would automatically stop and slow down.

“These need to be reinstalled as a matter of urgency before a child gets seriously injured.”

Oxford Mail:

A spokesperson for Cherwell District Council said: “Enhancing the provision for walking and cycling plays an important part of the town’s development, improving the health and wellbeing of residents, reducing traffic congestion and improving air quality.

"This is particularly important around schools, where air quality can be especially poor during school pick up and drop off.

"We encourage motorists driving close to any school to do so with care and attention.”